Movie Review

Music of the Heart

MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language and sensuality.

Reviewed by: Hillari Hunter
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Pre-teen to Adult
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr. 14 min.
PG

Starring: Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn, Gloria Estefan, Cloris Leachman | Directed by: Wes Craven | Written by: Pamela Gray | Distributor: Miramax Films

Scene from Music of the Heart
Gloria Estefan, Meryl Streep, and Angela Bassett in “Music of the Heart”

This film is based on the true story of Roberta Guaspari, a music teacher in New York. When the movie opens, she has recently moved herself and her two sons in with her mother, after her marriage fails. Roberta (Meryl Streep) takes her limited teaching experience and pitches a violin class to a skeptical principal (Angela Bassett). After proving how well she’s taught her young sons the instrument, Roberta is given a chance. It is slow going at first, as Roberta has to deal with inattentive students, and disapproving parents and fellow teachers.

One African-American parent snaps that her son has better things to do than learn “dead white men’s music,” even though her son lights up while he’s taking his music lessons. The violin program grows so much in popularity that kids have to enter a lottery to get a chance to get into it. When the program is cut due to the insensitive school system, Roberta fights back.

This is a satisfying “feel-good” movie that has very little that would be offensive to Christian audiences. There is an off-camera scene where the still-married Roberta (her divorce having not gone through yet) sleeps with an old schoolmate (Aidan Quinn). Also, a teacher who becomes her ally (Gloria Estefan) uses a derogatory term to refer to another teacher. However, the movie does a good job presenting Roberta as a likeable underdog whose love for her students always is apparent, even when she’s admonishing them for not practicing enough.

Several of the kids, some of whom are students of the program in reality, are adorable and do a good job in their respective parts. “Music of the Heart” has a solid message to never give up on a good cause.

Year of Release—1999

Similar Titles: “Mr. Holland’s Opus” | “Lean On Me

Viewer Comments
This was one of the best films we have seen in quite a while. It was inspiring, thought provoking and clean. My Ratings: [4/4]
—L. Levine, age 55
My band teacher recommended this movie to his students. I went and I’m very glad I did. It inspired me as I am a first year saxophone player. It reminded me to keep practicing and do my best. My Ratings: [5/5]
—Whitney, age 11
This movie is refreshing with all of the R rated movies these days that celebrate sexual infidelity, cheating, lying and laziness. In this movie, hard work is uplifted as necessary and rewarding. Perseverance is shown and rewarded. A single mom with faults is shown working hard at her job and as a mother trying to keep it all together. Students and adults alike also exhibit gratefulness. The movie would be better without the adultery in the beginning, but it doesn’t pervade the movie. A feel-good movie that elevates education. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Janice Gee, age 45
The movie has many touching moments. The fact that it is based on a documentary on a real life story makes it even more convincing. Meryl Streep had once again a superb performance. I fully echo the comments on your Web site regarding the objectionable scenes which didn’t add a cent to the value of the movie. But keep in mind this is a Miramax movie. It could have been a lot worse. In fact, the preview of other movies at the beginning were very inappropriate given the the fact that this is a family/PG movie. Anyway I’m happy that the movie brought out the courage and struggle of Roberta who succeeded to keep a worthwhile music program alive. My son, who happens to be in the movie, was glad to meet and work with Meryl who is a wonderful person and actress. She is genuine and works hard for her roles. Overall, my son had a good experience working with the other children and the movie crew. My Ratings: [4/5]
—Tim, age 36
I took my two children, 11 and 12, to see this movie, and we loved it. It stuck with us for the next two days. We especially appreciated that this was a biographical story, although the story was powerful, even if it were fiction. The first half of the film was very choppy, jumping from scene to scene without rhyme or reason, and it was difficult to get involved or to really care about any of the characters. The second half of the movie, however, really took off. After getting in trouble for her verbal abuse of the students, Roberta agrees that she can tone down her language, and correct the students more gently. Her students are put off by the change, one of them telling her, “We have plenty of teachers who are nice to us, you gave us variety!.” It was great when Robert stood up to Naeem’s mother, and convinced her to let her son return to the program. We watched Roberta and her sons grow and blossom after her painful divorce, and begin to stand on her own two feet, with the help of a mother who refused to mollycoddle her. The planning of the benefit concert, and the involvement of the other parents, and Roberta’s new male friend, was quite exciting. My kids were captivated by their first view of the stage at Carnegie Hall, and to see the world-famous violinists perfoming was quite a thrill. This was definitely a feel-good movie, a la “Mr. Holland’s Opus” or “Stand and Deliver.” I would like to say this was an excellent film, but I was very disappointed by the un-necessary boyfriend scene, obviously stuck in there to get the PG rating. My son was “grossed out” and covered his eyes. This scene had nothing to do with the rest of the movie, added nothing to the story, and only contributed to the choppy feeling of the first half of the film. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—C. Lewis, age 39